Shopping is a personal experience that many people enjoy, while some even go one step further and fall into shopping addiction.
Co-founder of Slickr Maria Sanchez and founder of jobedu.com Tamer Al-Masri both appreciate and understand shopping. The two entrepreneurs have dedicated their careers to retail and merchandise.
While Sanchez’s expertise falls in the realm of online networking, Al-Masri definitely feels more confident around on-ground stores. The two pioneers met during one of RiseUp’s panel discussions earlier this week.
The “Industry Spotlight” was moderated by founder and editor in chief of Fustany.com Amira Azzouz. It discussed various aspects of retail business, both online and offline.
Al-Masri’s business started with a few outlets around Amman, Jordan. Sanchez’s project is an online platform that aims to facilitate and revolutionise fashion e-commerce. Therefore, Azzouz’s questions mainly focused on the variations the respective platforms introduce to the business.
“I started with offline outlets and so when I moved my business online, it failed miserably; it failed three consecutive times,” Al-Masri said. “It was so weak that we only received 72 orders during the entire first year.”
The Jordanian pioneer highlighted the fact that online and offline retail rarely have any common denominators. “In order to succeed online, I had to hire a specialised team. I am an expert in offline retail; give me a store and I will manage it and add energy but online is a totally different matter,” Al-Masri said.
Sanchez added some insight from a local perspective. “Fashion is relatively new in Egypt and e-commerce is even newer and therefore there is a huge margin for failure,” she said.
Nonetheless, the two did agree on one main point people’s tendency to accept new approaches and experiment with new methods. “For the first two years people used the website as a catalogue; they used to check the items on the website, then shop at the store,” Al-Masri said. “What we discovered a few months after launching is that we had a beautiful website, yet it was not engaging enough.”
“We are developing a mobile application that has many cool features. With online you have to always keep moving,” Sanchez said.
Both Sanchez and Al-Masri highlighted the fact that shopping is a cherished activity to many people and so taking it to the online arena should not impact any of its influential aspects.
“Our in-store team is very interactive; they engage with the customers. Meanwhile, we have a certain type of music on play; Arabic songs that represent the store and its origins well,” Al-Masri said. “Our online application is designed in a way that communicates the team’s spirit and plays the same music.”
The duo concluded the panel discussion with their personal expectations regarding the regional fashion scene.
“The fashion industry in Egypt has huge potential; there is a huge market here. It is going to happen in the coming five years; we will witness a huge shift,” Sanchez said. “A lot of the local designers here will certainly go international. In my opinion, Egypt and Lebanon are the most promising in the region.”
“Each country is growing in a bubble and we will keep growing until we finally burst the bubble for the actual evolution to occur. Mobility is the biggest obstacle in the region; getting any goods in or out is the real challenge,” Al-Masri said.
The RiseUp summit schedule also included other fashion-related activities. The legendary Suzan Sabet, founder and editor in chief of Pashion magazine, met with the phenomenal fashion designer Amina K., for a talk about fashion startups and the difficulties they have to conquer to be sustainable.
The two-day event also included a workshop led by Sanchez, where she shed light on globalisation versus localised markets. The workshop highlighted the importance of understanding different local markets when considering global expansion. “In order to become global, you have to understand and study each local market you intend to cater to,” Sanchez said.
According to the fashion entrepreneur, it is important for any brand or entity to adapt its services and products to suit each market.
Slickr is currently expanding in direction of the UK and the team is working hard on evaluating all aspects of the British market. “The UK is 180 degrees different from Egypt but this is good news to our team because once we master the two opposite markets we will be able to handle everything in between,” she said.
The local fashion industry also left its mark on the open-air area in the GrEEK Campus, where Slickr organised a mini display that showcased six show-stoppers. Farida Temraz, the Italian Fashion Academy, Salem Alta Moda, Markaz, and Laila Wahba’s Bijouterie pulled out beautiful mannequin displays that reinterpreted the relationship between fashion and art.